Pens resigning Sykora?
The Penguins are apparently interested in resigning winger Petr Sykora to a contract extension before he reaches free agency this offseason. This is according to The Fourth Period.com and Sykora himself in an interview in January with Czech daily newspaper MF Dnes (translated by LGP contributor Tomas Jandik).
Sykora has enjoyed a career resurgence during his time in Pittsburgh. Last season he scored 28 goals, his highest total since 2002-2003. He registered 35 assists as well for a total of 63 points, his highest total since 2000-2001.
This season, he is on pace for roughly 60 points and is having himself another good season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He began the season slow after suffering from a respiratory illness in the preseason followed by a groin injury that caused him to miss some time. He came on strong once he was healthy and has been the only consistent scorer at wing for the Penguins this season.
On a team where scoring from the wings is at a premium, Sykora’s value to the Penguins is higher than it is to other teams. When GM Ray Shero signed Petr Sykora, he was rumored to be interested in a similar player in Paul Kariya. When Kariya’s price tag rose too high for the Penguins, Shero looked to Sykora as an alternative. As it turned out, Kariya finished with 2 more points last season than Sykora, but Kariya made $3.5 million more than Sykora. Pretty good production for $2.5 million. For comparison, Sykora’s 40 points is equal in price to Fedotenko’s 21 points.
Sykora in a recent interview was very honest in his opinion of the struggles the Penguins were experiencing, Coach Michel Therrien, playing on a line with Malkin, and the chances of returning to Pittsburgh when his current deal is up.
“Here it’s a constant battle with the coach, whether he lets you play,” said Sykora on Therrien and his lineup decisions. “Sometimes you play almost the whole game, he sends you on the ice all the time. Then another game comes – and boom, you sit on the bench. You are getting cold; then you don’t want to even go on the ice anymore.”
Sykora does not seem to like the odd lineup decisions former Head Coach Michel Therrien had become infamous for implementing during his tenure.
Sykora said, “One has to get used to constantly playing with somebody else every shift; being rotated all the time. You simply have to learn to get the most out of every situation when the coach lets you play.”
Sykora was also extremely frank about the defensive struggles of the team during late November through the time Ryan Whitney returned from injury.
“What helped us [on defense] was the return of Whitney. Until then we had 6 D-men who took a puck and threw [it] in on the Plexiglas. And we were then chasing that puck like idiots,” said Sykora.
The Czech reporter then asked Sykora about his contract status and his future plans. This is what Sykora had to say:
Q: So maybe you would go to play in Russia again?
A: “I’d like to play in the NHL for 2-3 more years. I think I still have results, I am still successful. I’d like to stay. [Playing in] Russia does not attract me much anymore.”
Q: Your contract in Pittsburgh is up after this season, have you and the team already discussed the new one?
A: “It’s still too soon, just preliminarily. We discussed that I would like to continue playing here.”
Q: So you are clear about that. What keeps you in Pittsburgh the most?
Q: That was a clear answer.
A: “I’d like to keep playing with him. So that apparently keeps me here the most.”
Q: What would be your biggest praise regarding Malkin?
A: “He is exceptional because he can take a puck, beats an opponent, and he still sees you. He can see you regardless where on the ice you are, even when two players guard him. He can pass to me like nobody ever before. And he is a nice guy who does not criticize you when things go wrong. He is not like some other stars who are constantly upset. He is OK all the time, cool, no problem.”
So while Sykora is certainly willing to return, probably more so now that he will have consistent playing time and line mates, should Shero be interested? Absolutely. One strike some people hold against Sykora is that he scores most of his goals on the power play. My response? Somebody has to. He is the trigger man on the power play. Since when is scoring goals a bad thing? He holds his own at even strength and I think that with more consistent line mates/more talented left wing on the line, his even strength numbers would be even better.
If Shero can sign Sykora to a similar deal to the one he is currently on, it will be a great deal for both sides. Sykora gets his buddy Malkin (who I hear is pretty good) feeding him the puck. The Pens get a legitimate top 6 winger that has finishing skill with a reasonable price tag. Plus Sykora seems like a passionate hockey player especially evidenced by his goal celebrations. But he is not only enthusiastic for the goals he scores, he celebrates just as exuberantly for his teammates goals as well.
Sykora is obviously on the tail end of his career which would make a decision by him to leave Pittsburgh a foolish choice. Playing with Crosby and Malkin can make any aging winger look good. Well almost anyone.